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Updated: Saturday, December 6, 2003 7:52 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(16) Wake Forest 81, Richmond 66

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Pushed for the first time in nearly a month, No. 16 Wake Forest pushed back.

Freshman Chris Paul, Eric Williams and Taron Downey scored 17 points each as Wake Forest overcame a sluggish start and pulled away for an 81-66 victory over Richmond.

In remaining unbeaten, the Demon Deacons (5-0) trailed for most of the first half and by as many as six points. They had not trailed in any game since their season opener against Memphis on November 13 in which they overcame a five-point deficit for an 85-76 win.

Wake did not trail in huge wins over Elon (97-55), Yale (86-61) and Indiana (100-67) but was in a 24-18 hole late in the first half before using a late surge to take a 34-32 halftime edge.

"They had a terrific game plan," said Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser, whose team notched its 20th straight home win. "They took advantage of things better than anyone else."

Paul was unrattled by a shoving incident and scored 13 points in the second half as the Deacons cruised to their 12th straight win over the Spiders (4-3). After making just 1-of-8 3-pointers in the first half, Wake Forest made 6-of-14 after halftime.

"We hit some cold-blooded 3-pointers," Prosser said.

"We kept our composure even though we were not making shots because we knew that we would eventually make some shots," said Downey, who was 6-of-12 with three 3-pointers. "We needed to have a tough mentality."

That was necessary in the first half, when Richmond's Daon Merritt elbowed fellow freshman Paul and was bodychecked to the floor in retaliation by Wake's Jamaal Levy. Merritt and Levy received technical fouls and Deacons Trent Strickland and Todd Hendley came off Wake's bench and were ejected.

"It definitely fired us up," Paul said. "All I saw was an elbow flying at me and it really excited all the guys. The coach said not to let a team come into our house and take our pride."

"I wish those guys would not have come off the bench. I'll take the blame for that," Prosser said. "The events certainly added to our intensity, but I don't think it was the deciding factor for our victory."

Second-half shooting also was a factor. The Deacons made 16-of-29 shots while holding the Spiders to 12-of-38 shooting.

"Our shot selection really hurt us," said Spiders coach Jerry Wainwright, an assistant with the Deacons from 1984-94. "Wake Forest does a great job of making you pay for your mistakes."

Mike Skrocki made four 3-pointers and scored 21 points for Richmond, which has lost three of its last four games.


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